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2014 Jeep Compass review: one size fits all

2014 Jeep Compass; photos by Chrysler Group LLC/Benjamin Yong

The recently refreshed Jeep Compass continues with a styling and performance renaissance for 2014 tweaking the much-improved front end and debuting a six speed automatic transmission. Together with the optional Freedom Drive 4x4 systems, Chrysler presents customers a choice for an entry-level priced daily use compact SUV they can also off-road in.

Aesthetics

Last year, the still-first generation Compass received another mid-model facelift that streamlined the grille and did away with the bug-eyed headlights, replacing them with more modern looking rectangular units. New are some shiny billet accoutrements to the grille and tailgate trim, and a smoked treatment within the front and rear light housings.

I found getting inside my Limited edition press vehicle via the rear doors proved more challenging than it should have been, due to the handles located up on the C pillars that didn’t always seem to want to open on first tug. Saddle Brown perforated leather has been introduced on the seating and door panel surfaces adding a touch of class to an otherwise fairly bare bones interior. Curiously, the driver seat has a power slide feature but still uses a traditional lever to recline.

The Compass gets a scaled-down version of Uconnect ($1,200 option), Chrysler’s all-in-one media centre that includes all the various audio/video functionality like SiriusXM Radio and CD/DVD/MP3 capability controlled by a touchscreen. I was surprised to discover a Garmin-powered GPS system after noticing and pressing a little “Nav” icon on the top corner of the monitor. The resolution and graphics looked early 2000s cartoony, but worked quickly and accurately. 

Performance

Replacing the noisy continuously variable transmission on most models is a brand new fully electronic six-speed PowerTech auto tranny. Advertised as using noise-resistant gears, shifts are at times still on the louder side, particularly when the transmission sounds like it’s hunting for a gear. There is also an available “manual” mode that is unlike most — up and down shifts are done by toggling the lever left and right.

A 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine producing 172 horsepower and 164 lb-ft of torque powers the Limited model, and is good enough for everyday driving duties and towing up to 2,000 pounds. Customers have a choice between the Freedom Drive I package, what I had, that offers a full time 4x4 system with lock mode that is perfect for handling Vancouver’s slick rainy weather and occasional snowfall, or the beefier Freedom Drive II that adds more suspension height, skid plates, tow hooks, and lower gearing to handle steep grades and rock climbing. Good for those wanting to hit the backcountry from time to time.

Fuel economy is one of this Jeep’s strengths, with Natural Resources Canada rating it at 10 L/100 km city driving and 7.4 on the highway. Our observed number during testing mostly in the city hovered around the 12.4 mark over a week, still better than one might guess for this type of crossover.

The final verdict is with its many configurations, the Compass presents a viable alternative for consumers who may be looking for one vehicle to do a variety of tasks. It lacks polish, but provides fair value for its features. 

Notable specs (as tested):

Base price (MSRP): $27,795
Engine: 2.4-litre four-cylinder
Horsepower: 172 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 164 @ 4,400 rpm
Drivetrain: six-speed PowerTech automatic transmission, four-wheel drive
Fuel economy: 12.4 L/100 km combined city and highway (observed)
Seats: five

@b_yong

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